This section is designed to provide basic information and address some common questions. Please do not hesitate to contact Abigail Nelson, Assistant Dean of Accessible Education and Student Support, with other questions, concerns, or feedback.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
In the college setting, reasonable accommodations are designed to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities by reducing or eliminating barriers to access and full participation. Accommodations may consist of modifications or adjustments to a course, program, or activity to ensure equal access. The request and review process is designed to ensure that accommodations do not fundamentally alter the nature of a course or program or provide an unfair advantage (American Psychological Association).
How are accommodations approved?
Students must make all formal accommodation requests through the Office of Accessible Education and Student Support and follow a consistent procedure. Students meet with the Assistant Dean of Accessible Education and Student Support to discuss their disability, experienced or anticipated barriers, any past use of accommodations, and current accommodation requests. Information provided by the student is reviewed in conjunction with disability-related documentation and requests are considered in the context of what is reasonable based on the essential program or course requirements. All accommodation requests are reviewed on an individual and case-by-case basis. Some accommodations may be approved on a provisional or semester basis when more information is needed or if a disability is temporary or may change over time.
How are faculty notified about approved accommodations?
Faculty will receive a Letter of Accommodations by email with the student copied. The letter will verify that the student is registered with the Office of Accessible Education and outline accommodations for which they are approved. Accommodations may be approved at any point in the semester, however they are not retroactive.
What if I believe an approved accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of my course?
Please contact Abigail Nelson directly if you have concerns about an accommodation. Great care will be taken to ensure accommodations do not fundamentally alter the essential requirements and that all students are held to the same learning objectives. In some instances, Accessible Education staff may need to collaborate with faculty to ensure these standards are being met.
What if a student requests an accommodation but I have not received any official notification?
If a student (with or without a disability) comes to you with concerns about access, you may choose to discuss this with them and see if there are solutions or adjustments that can be made without compromising the intent of the learning activity or assessment. However, you are not under any obligation to provide an accommodation that has not been officially approved through the Office of Accessible Education. In this instance, students may be referred to our office to initiate a formal request.
Even if a formal accommodation is not ultimately required, please encourage a student with a disability, or who suspects they may have a disability, to consider connecting with the Office of Accessible Education. It’s possible a similar barrier may present itself in a subsequent course where there isn’t as much flexibility or there may be additional accommodations or resources which may be helpful.
What should I do if I am concerned about a student and suspect they may have a disability?
As you would with any student who is struggling, explore with the student if there are any ways or resources that may help to support them. A student may disclose a disability to you, in which case it would be appropriate to encourage them to access services through the Office of Accessible Education. Legally, you cannot ask a student if they have a disability. However, you may explore available support options including Accessible Education, Writing at Bates, tutoring, and Health Services, for example, as you would with any student.